Demonstrators demand anti-racist action from students, administration


Demonstrators holding signs and banners gather outside McAlister Auditorium to listen to students share their personal experiences with racism and marginalization at Tulane. 

The chanting of more than 100 students and faculty, expressing anger and frustration with a community they feel perpetrates racism and xenophobia, rang across campus on Monday.

“We too are TU,” “White silence is violence,” and “Old Jim Crow, new Jim Crow; this racist system has got to go,” echoed from Gibson Hall to McAlister Auditorium as protesters called for change on the administrative and student levels.

In response to a lack of action from Tulane, protesters gathered around 11:30 a.m. in front of Gibson Hall, where organizers read their statement of purpose.

Participants also demanded accountability from white students in regards to deconstructing the racism on Tulane’s campus that affects the personal safety and human rights of marginalized groups.

Representatives from more than 10 multicultural organizations on campus were present at the demonstration. Word of the protest was shared through Facebook and grew as the group marched through campus. To spread the protest’s message on social media, many used #WeTooAreTU.

Student leaders emphasized the fact that the demonstration was not political. The organizers’ statement of purpose read, “We are neither pro-Hillary nor anti-Trump.”

Tulane Black Student Union President Will Smith said he is less concerned with the election itself and more concerned with its implications.

“There has already been, as Van Jones put it, a ‘white lash’ against people of color, safe spaces and all the progress that I think our society is making,” Smith said. “This protest is just to say that we’re here and we’re not going away.”

A group of student leaders at the Office of Multicultural Affairs noticed protests throughout the country and decided to build on the momentum. Protesters focused on Tulane-specific issues, like the way the administration and students treat people of color.

Canela Lopez, Students Organizing Against Racism co-president and current news editor at The Hullabaloo, said they feel Tulane’s current campus climate is dangerous.

“There have been so many instances of microaggressions and macroaggressions against us on this campus,” Lopez said. “Anywhere from students wondering what sport we play to be at Tulane to assuming we can’t speak English properly to outright hate crimes … We are unsafe.”

Organizers demanded that a new space for the OMA be selected by the end of this month.

“The O serves as a necessary resource for over 20 percent of students here, including students of color and students with marginalized genders, sexualities, and religions,” the statement read. “Despite this, it is crammed into a tiny office in the basement of the [Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life].”

President Michael Fitts said Tulane is committed to ensuring that it is welcoming and supportive of all people, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. Fitts said he is working with students through the Presidential Commission on Race and Tulane Values to address issues from Monday’s protest.

“Tulane fully supports and encourages our students to continue peaceful discussion of these and other issues,” Fitts said. “Given the recent hard-fought and divisive presidential election, Tulane is working to ensure that all of our students know that they are cherished members of the Tulane family.”

Khristyan Trejo, co-president of Generating Excellence Now and Tomorrow in Education, said he felt the administration was silent when students reported hate crimes and when GENTE expressed concerns over xenophobia.

“[The aministration is] complicit because there’s violence happening,” Trejo said. “…The message Tulane’s administration is sending is they don’t care about students of color until things get ugly.”

Organizers called for the university to make a concentrated effort to review the list of demands presented by SOAR and tBSU during the Call for Unity last November.

One demand was to expand Tulane shuttle services to all of Tulane’s contracted employees. The statement urged Tulane to ensure that its contracted workers receive fair treatment and respect from the community.

Junior Noa Elliott, who participated in the protest, said resistance often starts at the student level. She said student protesters represent the future of both the country and the South.

“We’re representing the idea that we need to stand up for the fact that there are injustices being done every day; this is not a cause of injustice, this is an effect of it,” Elliott said. “…we are trying to take hold of what the actual problem is and not just treat the symptom but treat the cause.”

Following the march, members of the community gathered in front of McAlister Auditorium. For approximately three hours, students shared their personal feelings and experiences surrounding racism and marginalization at Tulane.

Sophomore Haneen Islam expressed her solidarity with her fellow Muslim students.

“The Muslims on this campus who I know don’t feel safe right now, because I don’t feel safe…” Islam said. “I want to f—— strut down this campus wearing a hijab and feel proud.”

There was one disruption to the non-violent demonstration when a student began shouting through a megaphone from a nearby dorm, “Go Trump” and “Go to class.”

While addressing her fellow protestors, SOAR Co-President Maddy Lowry was asked to stop using a megaphone towards the end of the protest due to regulations against amplified sounds.

Lopez and Lowry concluded the demonstration by rereading the demands of the collective protest.

“Tulane University must work relentlessly to ensure the safety of our community,” the statement said. “We need protection and accountability. We will continue to organize and to escalate until our demands are met. We are still here, and we are still not going anywhere.”

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